Nutritional Supplements: The Amazing Vitamin C
The real facts about Vitamin C may surprise you. First of all what is Vitamin C? Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. Unlike the oil soluble vitamins such as A and E, Vitamin C cannot be stored by your body. Since Vitamin C is not stored by your body, we need to get it from our diet or from supplements.
But Can't Our Bodies Just Make Vitamin C?
Great question! Most animals have the ability to make their own Vitamin C. And make it they do... lots of it. It is estimated that if we had the ability to make our own Vitamin C we would make between 3000 an 10,000 mg every day... and 3 to 4 times that amount if we were being stressed by infection.
Unfortunately, humans along with guinea pigs, fruit bats and gorillas are the only mammals that need to ingest our daily dose of Vitamin C. The only vitamin we humans have the ability to make is Vitamin D... and we need the sunshine to help us do that.
Some very exciting facts about Vitamin C have sprung up within the last few years. First off, Vitamin C along with Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), have been called the most essential of the "essential nutrients." That is, without an adequate supply of these two, you die. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but certainly years sooner than the folks with optimal levels of both in their bodies.
Arrrrr!!! Shiver Me Timbers!
Remember the stories about the sailors of old and the disease they contracted during long voyages called scurvy? Scurvy was nothing more than not having enough Vitamin C in their bodies. Without an adequate supply of Vitamin C, the blood vessels did not have enough collagen to repair themselves. Some of these sailors literally bled to death through cracks in their blood vessel walls.
Fortunately, in 1747 a Scottish doctor got a clue about Vitamin c and linked citrus fruits with a decreased incidence of Scurvy. Towards the end of that century, the Brits began sending along lime juice with their sailors on long voyages. Now you know why British sailors are called "limeys."
Facts About Vitamin C and its Antioxidant Properties
If you've read the facts about Vitamin E, you've no doubt read about what an antioxidant does. If not we can review quickly.
The cells of your body are under a lot of stress... oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when highly unstable molecules called free radicals roam freely throughout your body.
Free radicals are a by-product of not only the normal metabolic processes of your cells but also your environment... things such as air pollution, sun exposure, industrial chemical exposure, ozone, nitrous oxide (from auto exhaust), cigarette smoke, alcohol consumption and so on.
Free radicals damage cell membranes and DNA and can result in changes to your cells that cause life threatening chronic diseases down the road. When your cells are being damaged by these free radicals, we say your cells are experiencing oxidative stress... and one of the facts about Vitamin C is that it is an antioxidant and can significantly neutralize the free radicals and the damage to your cells that cause oxidative stress.
Facts about Vitamin C and Heart Disease
One of the facts about Vitamin C that we feel is most significant is the role Vitamin C plays in the production of collagen.
Collagen is a protein. It is the connective tissue that holds our bodies together and keeps us from falling apart. Collagen is found in your skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, liver, cartilage, bone marrow and blood vessels.
Collagen is essential for the repair of our bodies. Without collagen our bodies don't heal. And without Vitamin C we don't make collagen.
What Does Collagen Production Have to Do With Heart Disease?
Remember the facts about Vitamin C above and the sailors with scurvy? They weren't getting any Vitamin C. So when their blood vessels cracked, no collagen was being produced to repair the cracks.
Why do your blood vessels crack in the first place? Well consider this. Your heart beats about 4000 times every hour. That's 96,000 times a day and 35,040,000 times every year (yes that's million)! The blood vessels of your heart are being squeezed and released that many times as well.
Imagine you were to run over a garden hose laying in your driveway that many times. Do you think it might soon develop some cracks?
Although your body has a difficult time repairing those cracks in the complete absence of Vitamin C (and hence scurvy), most folks in the developed world get just enough Vitamin C to keep scurvy at bay... but not much more.
Problem is, as this sub-optimal amount of Vitamin C in their body is repairing with collagen, it's not quite enough. Your liver then determines that the repairs are not being made quick enough and sets about to produce a special form of LDL called lipoprotein-a.
Lipoprotein-a is very sticky and acts as a putty to fill in the cracks that the lack of collagen left behind. Great right? Leak stopped.
Well the leak is stopped yes, but being as sticky as it is, lipoprotein-a catches and glues down all the other LDL (bad cholesterol) that floats by. This action results in plaque build-up inside the vessel walls and can eventually close off these blood vessels... and we all know what that means!
Facts about Vitamin C and Cholesterol
Can Vitamin C lower cholesterol? A relationship has been shown experimentally between high levels of Vitamin C and low levels of cholesterol. An article appearing in the National Library of Medicine shows that Vitamin C provides the same mechanism for inhibiting the production of cholesterol as do cholesterol lowering statin drugs.
The American Heart Association also reported that Vitamin C lowered LDL cholesterol in children who were predisposed to high cholesterol.
The facts about Vitamin C also show that Vitamin C lowers cholesterol without the dangerous side effects of these statin drugs. Statin drugs have been shown to inhibit the production of another essential nutrient called Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Decreased levels of CoQ10 result in significant muscle myopathy (wasting away). And since the heart is a muscle, statin drugs have been linked to Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).
More Facts about Vitamin C
Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's when taken with Vitamin E and cut your chances of having a stroke.
Why is that? Remember the facts about Vitamin C above as an antioxidant? Well, most researchers agree that Vitamin C's powerful antioxidant properties are responsible. By neutralizing the cell damaging effects of those free radicals running around in your body, Vitamin C works to keep your cells healthy and free of damage. And if your cells are healthy, you are healthy!
Vitamin C is also known to protect the immune system. Vitamin C aids in the manufacture of white blood cells. White blood cells destroy viruses and bacteria.
Also remember the facts about Vitamin C as aiding in the manufacture of collagen? Well collagen being the connective tissue that holds our skin together, our skin is what keeps pathogens out in the first place.
Yeah, But I Drink My Glass of Orange Juice Everyday... Well Almost
What are the facts about Vitamin C concerning the amount you should take? Well who do you want to believe? The official U.S. Government RDA for Vitamin C is 60 to 90 mg. Some would argue that this level does nothing more than ward off scurvy. They would also argue that these levels do nothing to prevent chronic, long term, debilitating diseases.
An article in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition reports on a study done on antioxidant vitamins and coronary heart disease risk. The study looked at 9 other studies which included participation by Harvard School of Public Health and Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Conclusions: "The results suggest a reduced incidence of major CHD (coronary heart disease) events at high supplemental vitamin C intakes."
How high was the daily Vitamin C intake of the 293,172 patients during this ten year study? Above 700 mg!
Ok, But Is Vitamin C Safe?
In an article titled "Vitamins E and C Are Safe Across a Broad Range of Intakes" published in THE AMERICAN JOURNAL of CLINICAL NUTRITION, a large study concluded that Vitamin C supplements of up to 2000 mg per day were safe for most adults. Exceeding that limit could result in gastrointestinal upset or mild diarrhea.